“Like everyone,” Shauna James Ahern says, “I thought gluten was necessary for a pie dough. But what’s really necessary…is cold. Cold butter, cold flour. If you’re using a food processor, a cold blade.”
Tune into the show this Saturday to learn more about gluten-free flours.
You can find Ahern’s Apple Pie recipe below, and if baking it goes well, click here to enter YOUR delicious pie (or pies) in the 5th Annual Good Food Pie Contest on Saturday, September 7th at LACMA.
Gluten-Free Apple Pie
(Excerpted from Gluten-Free Girl Every Day, © 2013 by Shauna James Ahern and Daniel Ahern. Reproduced by permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. All rights reserved.
I love so many things about this crazy world. But, other than being with my daughter and husband, nothing makes me happier than making a pie. And apple pie is my favorite.
There’s something wonderful about making a pie. It’s meditation in the hands, silence in the sugar, a happy space of work and laughter. I know that many folks are scared of making pie dough. But here’s the secret: gluten-free pie dough is much easier to work than gluten dough. You don’t have to worry about the dough growing tough if you work with it too much. If it falls apart, you just pat it in the pan. Nothing to worry about here.
You want an apple that doesn’t collapse into mush. It should be equal parts sweet and tart, with a big, bright apple taste. We like Gala, Pink Lady, Honeycrisp, and Jonagold apples. If you find a bag of Gravensteins, rush home to make pie.
What do you need to make a pie—your heart in your hands, your attention in the moment, and not much else. A happy baker makes a happy pie. Remember that. Don’t be afraid. What’s the worst that could happen? It’s pie.
Makes one 9-inch pie
16 tablespoons (2 sticks) unsalted butter, plus 1 tablespoon cut into small pieces
420 grams All-Purpose Gluten-Free Flour Mix (see below)
1⁄2 teaspoon kosher salt
1⁄2 cup cold water
3 tablespoons sour cream
8 large crisp apples (we like Gravensteins in season)
100 grams sugar
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 1⁄2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1⁄2 teaspoons kosher salt
1⁄4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 large egg, beaten
Chilling the butter: Cut the 16 ounces of butter into 1-inch cubes. Put them in the freezer, on a saucer.
Making the dough: Add 350 grams of the flour and the salt to a large food processor. Pulse them together until the flour is fluffy and aerated. Add the chilled butter cubes to the food processor and pulse 10 times. The flour and butter should look like a sandy mixture, with some butter chunks still visible.
In a small bowl, mix together the water and sour cream. Pour this into the food processor and pulse 5 times. The finished dough should look like curds of dry cottage cheese. You should also be able to pinch some of it between your fingers and have it stick together. If the dough is dry, add more cold water 1 tablespoon at a time. It’s better to have a dough a little too wet than a little too dry.
Forming the dough into discs: Dump the dough onto a clean, cool surface. Gently, gather all the dough together in your hands. Working quickly, make half the dough into a ball and flatten it into a plump disc, about 2 inches tall. Wrap it in plastic. Repeat with the remaining dough. Transfer the dough discs to the refrigerator to rest for 30 minutes.
Pulling out the dough: Take the dough discs out of the refrigerator. Let them sit for a few moments to soften while you make the filling.
Making the apple filling: Cut the apples in half lengthwise. Peel and core them. Cut each half into 1⁄2-inch slices.
Put the apple slices in a large bowl. Add the remaining 70 grams of flour, 90 grams of the sugar, the lemon juice, cinnamon, salt, and nutmeg and toss with the apples to combine. Let the filling sit on the kitchen counter while you roll out the dough.
Preparing to bake: Preheat the oven to 425°F.
Rolling out the dough: Put 2 pieces of wax paper on the kitchen counter. (You can also use parchment paper, a floured marble pastry board, or a floured countertop, if you wish.) To prevent sticking, lightly oil the sides of the wax paper that will be touching the dough.
Put one of the discs of dough between the pieces of wax paper. Pat down the disc a bit and lay the rolling pin on it. Imagine the dough is the face of a clock. Roll out once at 12 o’clock. Then, lift the rolling pin and roll out the dough at 12:10. Moving in “10-minute” increments, roll out the pie dough to slightly larger than your pie pan. Don’t rush. Think of this as pie meditation. Roll out the dough evenly.
Lift the top wax paper. Put a 9-inch glass pie pan upside down on top of the dough. Flip the pan and dough over together. Carefully, strip away the remaining piece of wax paper. Pat the dough down into the pan, gently. If some of the pie dough sticks to the wax paper, no worries. Peel off that dough and pat it into the rest of the pie dough. There’s no gluten so the pie crust won’t get tough.
Crimping the edges: Flour your fingers. Crimp the edges of the pie crust by pressing from the inside of the pie pan with the thumb and first finger on your left hand while pressing between those from the outside with the first finger of your right hand. Go slowly and enjoy it.
Filling the pie: Fill the pie dough with the apple mixture. It should mound pretty high. Dot the top of the filling with the butter pieces.
Putting on the top crust: Roll out the remaining dough the same way as explained above. Lay the top dough onto the pie gently, as though you are putting a blanket on a sleeping child. Tuck the edges into the crimped crust. Make 2 or 3 small slits in the top crust to allow the steam out.
Baking the pie: Brush the top of the pie crust with the beaten egg and sprinkle with the remaining 10 grams of sugar. Slide the pie into the oven.
Bake for 15 minutes. Turn down the heat to 375°F and bake the pie until the top crust is golden brown, the juices are sizzling on the edges of the crust, and the bottom crust is browned when you look at it from the bottom of the pan, about 45 minutes to 1 hour.
Allow the pie to cool to room temperature before serving, at least 2 hours. I know the wait is hard. It’s worth it.
Feel Like Playing?
When you feel comfortable with this pie, substitute half the volume of apples with pears. These two play really well together.
Cinnamon and nutmeg are my two favorite spices here. But I also love a pinch of cardamom, or a touch of allspice, or even a tiny bit of mace. Fresh vanilla bean scrapings will make this an even more extraordinary dessert.
All-Purpose Gluten-Free Flour Mix
I think of this as the transitional mix. We’re all so used to white flour in our food that we kind of crave our gluten-free baked goods to be white as well. I understand. Try as I might, I could just never get behind a whole-grain pie crust. So I use this AP flour mix for pies, cakes, biscuits, and some cookies.
It’s easy to make. All you have to do is mix up the following, based on the ratio of 40 percent whole-grain flour and 60 percent starches and white flours.
400 grams millet flour
300 grams sweet rice flour
300 grams potato starch
Dump them all in a large container (we like the large plastic containers restaurants use to store their food, which we buy at restaurant supply stores) and shake. Shake and shake and shake harder until all the flours have become one color. There. That’s your flour. Whenever you want to bake, just reach for that container and measure out how many grams you need for that recipe.
Here’s one of the main reasons I write my recipes in weight. What do you do with this mix if you can’t do cornstarch because of your corn allergy? Just substitute tapioca flour or arrowroot instead. You can’t find sorghum? Try millet for your whole-grain flour, or buckwheat.
We don’t think of this as OUR mix but yours. Make the mix that works for you, based on what flours you can eat, what you can find in your local store, or just what you have in the kitchen at the moment.
Think 40 percent whole-grain flour and 60 percent starches and white flours and you’ll have flour in your kitchen for all your baking needs.
Please make pie.